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Monday, 28 November 2011

A day at the theatre


I wonder if I hadn't set out on this dream of crossing oceans, learning to sail, buying a yacht, exploring the islands of the Caribbean, would I be in this waiting room at Preston Royal hospital at 7.30am on Wednesday 23rd of November. Perhaps not, perhaps I would have opted for the radio therapy, a rather less painful, less radical way of dealing with my cancerous prostate gland. I may even have gone for the watchful waiting option of doing nothing. After all it may not develop into a life threatening problem at all, that's how it is with this disease. But these alternatives would mean having very regular tests to keep an eye on its progress. The idea of going cruising and having this Damocles hammer hanging over our voyaging in the end swung the decision.

So there I am at 8am with my NHS backless smock and dressing gown being escorted to the theatre clutching a pillow I've been given to carry. I'm reminded of Ford Prefect in Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy who has to have a trusty towel with him prior to his excursions in hyperdrive. I don't think to ask why I'm carrying this pillow, but sheepishly follow directions as we trek the maze of corridors to finally be ushered into theatre 7, and the pre op room. Lucky 7 says my escort, but I'm not at all feeling lucky, I'm feeling distinctly nervous.

Carolyn is the antithesis and Jo her assistant, who exchange a sort of calming banter with me as I'm wired and pricked and readied for the reason I made it to here, next is oblivion until I come round in a bed on ward 15.

Jackie appears with a massive smile and a big hug, its about 3pm and my operation has been and gone. the surgeon pays a brief visit, tells me my prostate weighed 100g and is gone. Funnily enough I'm not in any pain but this tube stuck up my willie does feel decidedly odd. My only inclination of the op is a feeling in my midriff of perhaps being kicked, sort of tender but not what you'ld call painful.

 Jackie stays around until eight and we even manage a couple of games of backgammon then it's chucking out time and Jackie goes off to find a hotel for the night, and I settle in to hospital banter with the other inmates and the sights and sounds of ward 15. Next day I expect to be going home, but it doesn't quite go that way, I have to stay an extra night. Something to do with the amount of stuff in my drain bag. A bit of a disappointment but on Friday afternoon I'm out and on my way home.

I've been home now for a couple of days and apart from the inconvenience of having this catheter to deal with, which I've got for another ten days I'm feeling ok. It was not a very pleasant experience but by all accounts it should be a cure and that was what I wanted. The prospect of our high seas adventure without the threat of cancer hanging in the air will have made this trial more than worthwhile, although I'll have to wait about three months to get he all clear, but by all accounts it should be all behind us now.

As all this has been going on so has the ARC which has just set off from the Canaries on route for St Lucia and we've been tuning in to check their progress. We said three years ago that we would love to do this trip, before we knew how to sail, and after going through this last week trial we're starting to think seriously about entering for next year 2012. I have a feeling that we may have a plan coming together here.

Radical solution


It's been a couple of months since I was diagnosed with prostrate cancer, not the sort of news you want to hear when you've got plans for a big adventure. I was given the choice of three different treatments, which were, something called watchful waiting, which involved doing nothing except monitoring some stuff called my PSA levels in my blood. This would involve nothing more that having blood tests on a regular six monthly basis. Second was radio therapy, which would mean an 8 or ten week series of 10 minute blasts of radiation treatment. This was a painless procedure that would probably zap the little bugger, and then they would monitor me for the next 15 years or so to keep a check that it didn't return. The only down side to this was that if it returned I wouldn't be able to have an operation to take it out. Not sure why, but the radio therapy would probably work and get rid. The last, and more radical solution was to have what they now call a procedure, and have the whole prostrate removed. Radical prostectomy can leave you impotent and in the aftermath of the op leave with a catheter and wearing pads to catch the leaks, like having my own mini bilge pump. But the good news is that this situation would only last about six weeks. Afterwards the cancer would be gone, and so that's the one I decided to go for.
So a couple of days ago I took a two hour drive with the skipper to meet with the man who was to do what they now call the procedure. At the Royal Preston Hospital I met the surgeon who explained everything in a reassuringly nonchalant way, and reckoned I would only be in for about 48 hours. It will be done with whats known as key hole surgery which is less intrusive than the old method. He tells me that I will have the op. inside of 31 days which makes it before the end of this month.
Then I'll be out of action for about 8 to 10 weeks, which I'm of course not looking forward to, I'm not into pain, who is, but he tells me that after going through this I will be cured of the cancer, which has not spread anywhere else.
That is all I want because we've got this plan that's been burning brightly for almost three years and we aim to start next spring. By that time I expect to be up and running and ready to set sail. And this way means I don't have to keep having tests, worrying about this thing and can be free to enjoy the rest of my life on the ocean waves following this crazy dream. It's a bit of a radical solution but to have peace of mind instead of uncertainty seems worth the anguish and pain that I'm expecting to go through, though hopefully it won't be as bad as I'm anticipating.